January 13, 2010

The Hurt Locker

Also this week: Moon, Halloween II, The Burning Plain, 8 1/2, Urban Action Collection

Highlight of the Week

The Hurt Locker (Maple) It’s been well over a year since Kathryn Bigelow’s existential nail-biter of a war pic got its North American premiere at 2008’s TIFF, but her film remains as tensely effective as it was upon first viewing and it’s a shoo-in for the upcoming Best Picture rat race at the Oscars. Like the combat we observe, the ensemble cast — led by newish comer Jeremy Renner — is edgy, precise and liable to explode. The Hurt Locker may be the defining entry in the modern-warfare canon. Extras: detail-heavy commentary with Bigelow and writer Mark Boal (who worked in Iraq as a journalist), behind-the-scenes doc, photo gallery that can be viewed while listening to a Q&A.

Also Available 

Moon (Sony) Sam Rockwell delivers a great solo in Duncan (a.k.a. David Bowie’s son) Jones’ lo-fi nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey and other tripped-out space oddities of yore. Kevin Spacey sort-of costars as the voice of a HAL-like supercomputer, while Rockwell pulls a multiplicity act worthy of multiple head scratches. Extras: two commentaries, geek-tastic making-of, crafty 2002 short directed by Jones. 

Halloween II (Alliance) If anyone’s still counting, this is number 10 in the iconic series that began over 30 ago with John Carpenter’s Hitchcock-channelling slashterpiece. Rob Zombie has taken over the now-less-than-illustrious franchise, transforming it into a grisly, albeit well-photographed, redneck rampage and re-emphasizing the suspicion that The Devil’s Rejects was an anomalous stroke of luck. Also: "Weird Al" Yankovic cameos (and you thought casting Busta Rhymes in Halloween: Resurrection was insane). Extras: director’s cut clocking at nearly two hours, Zombie commentary, deleted scenes, audition/make-up footage, more.

The Burning Plain (E1) From his unique writing breakthrough, Amores perros, to the more recent and vastly overrated Babel, Guillermo Arriaga’s penchant for plot shuffling has seen mixed results. In his directing debut, nothing quite gels, and the now-predictable device makes for arguably his sloppiest effort yet. On the other hand, first-rate visuals from renowned DP Robert Elswit (who shoots all of P.T. Anderson’s films) helps things go down a lot smoother. Extras: hearty making-of, featurette on the score.

8 1/2 (Criterion) Criterion continues to crank out increasingly impressive high-def reissues from their art-house catalogue. Federico Fellini joins the ranks as one of the greatest things to happen to Blu-ray since… whatever these guys released last month. 8 1/2 is the Italian auteur’s crowning achievement and its dazzling monochrome visuals now look crisper than they ever could’ve in 1963. Skip the tedious Nine (adapted from a musical inspired by 8 1/2) in favour of revisiting Fellini in Blu. Extras are ported from 2001’s packed release and upgraded to HD. We get a Terry Gilliam intro, scholarly commentary, docs, interviews and more. 

Urban Action Collection: 4 Film Favorites (Warner) One of the best bang-for-your-buck packages around has been Warner’s “4 Film Favorites” sets. This one comprises four previously unreleased blaxploitation cult flicks, including martial-arts gem Black Belt Jones, directed by Enter the Dragon helmer Robert Clouse. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a sudsy kung-fu carwash brawl. Extras: don’t be greedy.